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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Meunier

Back on the NPT

I had to pause my hike of the Northville Placid Trail a few weeks back because my feet were falling apart. They're doing great now after getting some much needed rest (and antibiotic ointment!). Ever since they healed up, I was anxious to get back on the trail to finish the final section from Long Lake to Lake Placid (about 38 miles).

The plan

Even though I was tempted to do this trip in just two long days, I thought better of it after reflecting on how heavy mileage early in my last trip may have contributed to the foot problems I had. I decided to plan for three days (two moderate, one short) and two nights on the trail.

I wrote a post about the gear I brought on my last hike and another with a few thoughts about what I liked and what I didn't. As I planned for this (much shorter) hike, I decided to keep much of the same gear because most of it had worked out so well for me on my longer section. I did get a new headlamp to try (the Petzl Bindi). This was a tad pricey, but I like the fact that it is rechargeable, quite compact, and has a locking feature. Obviously, my feet were calling out for a change so I made the switch back to trail runners. The ones I chose are an update of the model I used for the Long Trail, the Saucony Peregrine 10. I broke these in running on trails near my home and with a long hike in the high peaks. Finally, I decided to wear a brimmed hat for this section of the hike. I donned my head net for hours at a time on earlier sections of this trail and I reasoned that the full brim would do a better job of keeping the net (and the buzzing deer flies) away from my ears. Fortunately, the bugs turned out to be much better this time and I only had to wear the head net once.

A few gear additions/replacements.

As for food, I had more than enough calories during my last section so I used the same assortment of meals and snacks. Cold-soaking worked out excellently. I've landed on some meals that work great with this method and I love the simplicity of it. I used a new watertight 6 oz. Nalgene (shown above) for late morning instant coffee. The only other food-related change I made was a switch to a cold-soaked "overnight" oats style breakfast. I've been enjoying this at home and it's just as easy to do out on the trail.

Finally, managing blisters on my last hike led me to give my first aid kit another look. I place a premium on simplicity and weight when backpacking for more than a few nights and so my first aid kit was quite minimal when I did my earlier section. I ran low on bandages and antiseptic wipes. I totally neglected to bring antibiotic ointment. I was able to improvise with my good supply of Leuko tape, hand sanitizer, and Carmex but this definitely wasn't ideal and I could imagine my Wilderness First Aid instructor shaking her head in disapproval. My new kit is still very minimal compared to the comprehensive kit I bring when leading groups or hiking with Rashna but it's more robust than what I carried last time. Fortunately, I didn't need to make use of any of it (except for spotting a hiker some ibuprofen).

Some first aid items.

Long Lake to Cold River

One reason I wanted to take this part of the trip a bit slower was that I went on a canoe trip on Long Lake years ago and remembered how pleasant it was. There were many campsites along this section of trail. My path meandered close to the lake shore at times and I especially enjoyed resting at one of the lean-tos at Kelly Point, the site of an old hotel.

Kelly Point

As I moved north, the forest was more open in places. Although the bugs were blessedly absent, I enjoyed the other living things around me, including the usual stunning variety of plants and fungi.

With Long Lake behind me, the trail passed through pine groves where my steps were pleasantly cushioned by a carpet of pine needles. Eventually, I arrived at Shattuck Clearing. Apparently, this place used to host a ranger station and was a popular picnic spot. It's slowly being reclaimed by nature and is little more than a trail junction now.

After crossing two impressive suspension bridges, I arrived at Cold River Lean-to #4. Compared to the frenetic pace of my last trip, it was luxurious to arrive at camp so early. This is an excellent spot to while away a few hours as the river rushes by an assortment of boulders, ledges, and river potholes. I enjoyed the water and chatted with a group of day hikers and a pair of thru-hikers.

Cold River

At one point, I noticed this insect flying near my lean-to:

I'm fairly sure this was an emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle originally from Asia. This insect damages ash trees and is one reason for the prohibitions on moving firewood around the state. It was tiny and had brilliant green coloring. I emailed DEC when I got home with a photo because it didn't look like there had been any confirmed cases in Essex County yet.

Cold River to Wanika Falls

This was the longest day of my trip but I still hoped to have time to linger at some of the lean-tos along the way. My path for the first part of the day followed the Cold River. Seward Lean-to was just a few miles down the trail and featured an incredible stone basin that would be excellent for swimming. My next stop, Ouluska Lean-to, meant I was nearing the Seward Range to the west. I startled five or six blue jays near the river bank; I had never seen these birds gathering in groups before. The trail eventually bypassed a beaver meadow and skirted large numbers of raspberry bushes, many with ripe fruit. I'd already been snacking on the occasional blueberry but this was another welcome treat.

My next landmark was Duck Hole which I was excited about because I've seen signs referencing it for years but have never visited. There used to be a dam at this site but it failed years ago and is now a large meadow with flowers and raspberry bushes. I rested at one of the lean-tos and watched the butterflies flit around. A second lean-to at this location looked extremely new and was almost golden in color.

Lean-to at Duck Hole

I was tempted to stay at the next lean-to, Moose Pond, but decided to stick with my plan to camp at Wanika Falls. Although there is no lean-to there, I heard that it was a pleasant place. It turned out to be a popular spot, as several hikers were already set up for the night. There was plenty of room, though, and the large rocks near the tent sites were great for lounging. The falls themselves, a short walk from the campsite, were spectacular even though the water was quite low. A large pool at their base would be excellent for swimming.

Wanika Falls to Lake Placid

After a wonderfully cool night at Wanika Falls (I actually slept inside my sleeping bag!), I started the short walk to the Averyville Road trailhead about 6 miles away. I liked this stretch of trail which mostly descended with a few muddy spots.

I emerged from the woods at around 10:30 and started my walk into Lake Placid where Rashna was scheduled to pick me up. I'm so grateful that she was willing to drive so far to come and get me (again!). She's the absolute best.

I'm happy I've finally gotten the chance to hike this long trail that was practically in my backyard and hidden in the midst of the mountains I've been playing in for years. It surprised me with its difficulty in places. But I also enjoyed many serene moments, often seated in some remote lean-to near a forgotten pond or stream. It's a special trail and I'm looking forward to revisiting it in the future.


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